Monday, April 21, 2008

North to Barrow!

I took a short trip to Barrow last week for work. We didn't have much time to poke around and find polar bears, but I did snap a few pics and experience some of the local life. But before I get there - check this's the Yukon River! We flew over it after a quick layover in Fairbanks. This was about the point in the flight where I kept thinking, "This is the farthest north I've this this is...." (There were lots of kids and my ipod died - I got a little bored, and was pretty excited to be on my way to Barrow.) It was about 5 degrees with winds out of the NW. What's NW of Barrow? Nothing but ice!! Those were some cold winds! Here's my "oceanfront" view from my hotel room. That would be 10 miles of ice before you get to open water. Whaling teams were preparing for the spring bowhead hunt and were shuttling supplies to build camps out towards the lead (where the ice opens to water and whales can be harvested). It was trippy to see snowmachines out there on the ocean. It's like frozen jet skiing. By the way, that picture was taken around 10:30PM. Notice where the sun is? On May 10th it will rise above Barrow's horizon and won't set for about three months!

I noticed an oddity worth noting during my short stint. The city's heat is free. So every building is cranked up to about 80 degrees. My hotel room was on the second floor, and as I made my way up the stairs I noticed that the hallway window was wide open. It was -5 degrees that night and the window was open!! Wow. And while we were working, the office windows were opened so that we wouldn't all fall into a heat-induced coma. Yikes. So, should you ever go to Barrow, be sure to bring two layers - short sleeves for inside, and down parkas for outside!

I'll leave you with a parting shot of Barrow as we flew away. This is not the city itself - that picture didn't turn out. But this gives you a good idea of what it's like up there - flat, cold and covered in ice/snow. I don't mean to give Barrow a bad rap. My trip was so short that I only scratched the surface of this place. Should I ever make it up there again, I'd like to experience more of the culture. I'd like to try muktuk (whale, sometimes dipped in seal oil!), see polar bears, see a whale harvest/celebration, and visit with the locals.